The Bells on Christmas Day

She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.

–         Matthew 1:21

 

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor[i] and hate your enemy.’  But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.  If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that?  And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that?  Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

–          Matthew 5:43-48

 

“When Henry Wadsworth Longfellow penned the words to ‘I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day,’ he was grieving deeply. His wife had died three years earlier and his country was in the depths of the Civil War – brother against brother. The poet wrote, ‘And in despair I bowed my head; ‘There is no peace on Earth,’ I said; For hate is strong, and mocks the song; Of peace on Earth, good will to men!’

“However, the hope in today’s verse [from Matthew 1] caused Wadsworth to continue writing. “Then pealed the bells more loud and deep; God is not dead, nor doth He sleep; The wrong shall fail, the right prevail; With peace on Earth, good will to men.” While many in America are suffering this Christmas, there is healing. The birth of Jesus brought hope to a hurt and dying world.”

–         Presidential Prayer Team Devotion

 

 

I might have mentioned in a blog that my father’s mother had an ancestor, thus so do I, who was sheriff of Albemarle County in Virginia during the Revolutionary War.  After the war, he was tried for aiding the British, but he was successfully defended by his first cousin, a young man by the name of Thomas Jefferson.

 

Jefferson was large and, at times, in-charge.  He was opinionated.  When George Washington was replaced by John Adams as president there was a SNAFU with the voting for Adams’ running mate.  SNAFU is a term meaning Situation Normal – All Fouled Up (Clean version).  As a result, Jefferson, Adams opponent was elected by the electoral college to be VP.

 

One major problem, they were in opposing parties and had been feuding since they both worked on the Declaration of Independence.  They had become friends, but when much of what Jefferson insisted on including in the Declaration was edited from the document, he became resentful.

 

Now, move forward from 1776 to 1796.  He lost the election and by odd circumstances became Adams’ VP.  He felt a couple of Adams’ key legislative acts during his presidency were written specifically to harm Jefferson’s political party.  There was definitely animosity between them.  Their political styles were opposed to each other.  Their views were opposed to each other.  And their concepts of how this young country ought to move forward were at odds.

 

How did this nation survive?

 

Both men communicated.  Both men swallowed their pride and worked with each other for the common good.

 

Nearly 70 years later, the country was at war within itself.  Longfellow writes a beautiful poem, but it is sad, without hope.  Then something changes.  The final verse shows hope in God.  The country survived the conflict of Longfellow’s time for the same reason.  People communicated and found a common ground to move forward.

 

The story of the Jefferson – Adams feud is similar to what is happening today in our government, except for one thing.  The two parties do not listen to one another.  They each say what the other wants to do will bring about ruin to this nation.  I have my political views, but I will not voice them here.

 

For this nation to survive another 200 years, we have to get rid of the mindset that our enemy is somewhat sub-human.

 

I have written before of how the military has a big problem in war time.  You take a farm boy and give him a weapon.  He was taught growing up that killing another human being was a bad thing.  So, you give a derogatory name to the enemy.  You convince the farm boy that these people are not human.  They are this ‘name’ and that means that they look human, but they are a sub-species.  This psychological trick works better than simply telling the soldier to kill or be killed.  The kill or be killed concept is defensive and reactionary.  An enemy that shoots first has a better chance of surviving.

 

Listen to almost any political speech today by members of almost any party.  You hear elements of the concept that their opponent is sub-human.  If we follow this line of thinking, we will have anarchy.  We already have armed organizations at both extremes willing to start a civil war.  Warning: No war is civil.

 

The Scripture from Matthew 5 is part of the Sermon on the Mount when Jesus tells us to love our enemy.  But first understand that this means love everyone.  If you get to know someone, except possibly that perfect soulmate, you will find principles on which you disagree.  You must love that person in spite of that.  You may still disagree, but you will treat the person differently if you love them and respect them as a fellow human being.  Looking upon others as a sub-species gets in the way of loving them.

 

Jefferson and Adams were strong opponents, but oddly they died on the same day, the 50th anniversary of our nation’s independence.

 

Soli Deo Gloria.  Only to God be the Glory.

 

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